CDC Imposes REAL Eviction Moratorium Through End of Year
I am going over the new far-reaching federal eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday. This moratorium will become effective when it is published in the Federal Register, which is currently scheduled for this Friday, September 4.
This moratorium is very likely in response to Trump’s executive order on evictions, which while not really doing anything in and of itself, did direct the C.D.C. to look into whether an eviction moratorium would help stop the spread of COVID-19, and as a result we have this new C.D.C.-issued eviction moratorium.
So if you know anybody struggling to make rent right now, please be sure to share this article with them.
There is something they have to do in order to take advantage of this moratorium, it’s not automatic, I am going to go over exactly what you need to do, there are action steps, if you want to take advantage of this eviction moratorium, so please make sure everyone you know knows about this, is informed about this, because if someone doesn’t know about it and doesn’t take the steps they can still be evicted even with this moratorium in place for their failure to act.
Here’s the link to the CDC’s new eviction moratorium if you want to read the whole thing for yourself like I just did this morning, it’s about thirty-seven pages long, now let’s get into it.
CDC’s New Eviction Moratorium
First, right off the bat, the moratorium, which refers to itself as “the Order”, gives some background on the coronavirus crisis and how homelessness, which obviously can result from being kicked out of your apartment because you have no money, can exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.
And then the order actually gets into the meat of it, it says, “Under this Order, a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this Order applies during the effective period of the Order.”
When I read this sentence, I immediately ask myself a few questions that I want to answer as I read this thing, number one, who is a covered person, how is that defined, who does this apply to, number two, what is a residential property, number three, what are the jurisdictions that the moratorium applies to, and four, what is the effective period that the moratorium applies to.
So answering these four questions is what I’m going to do now, and then at the end of the article I will cover exactly what you must do to take advantage of the eviction moratorium.
What is a Covered Person?
So what is a covered person, what kind of renter is covered by this moratorium?
There are five requirements that you, as a person, must meet to be covered by this moratorium.
- You must have used your best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing.
- You must expect to earn no more than $99,000 in 2020 if single or $198,000 in 2020 if married and file jointly with your spouse, OR you were not required to submit a 2019 tax return, OR you received a stimulus check under the CARES Act. If any one or more of those apply, you meet this second requirement.
- You must have been unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- You must be using your best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses. So this is saying that taking into account your necessary other living expenses like food, you should be making an effort to make timely partial payments, it doesn’t say that you actually have to be making partial payments, it’s just saying, look, if you’re barely able to put food on the table and you really can’t afford rent, but you would if you could, you’re fine. But if you’re somehow able to afford a lot of unnecessary spending like fancy dinners or a new T.V. but you’re not paying your rent, then you really aren’t making your best efforts to make timely partial payments, that’s all this is saying.
- Fifth requirement is that eviction would likely render you homeless or force you to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting because you have no other available housing options. Because it is this situation that the C.D.C. is concerned about, the entire justification for this eviction moratorium hinges on we don’t want people out on the streets, we don’t want them in close-quarters group housing because that could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
What is a “residential property” covered by this moratorium?
Because remember, the CARES Act eviction moratorium only applied to those living in properties that participate in a federal assistance program or are subject to a “federally backed mortgage loan.” Does this new eviction moratorium care about this? The answer is no.
The moratorium simply defines “residential property,” which it applies to, as “any property leased for residential purposes, including any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park, or similar dwelling leased for residential purposes, but shall not include any hotel, motel, or other guest house rented to a temporary guest or seasonal tenant.”
So this new eviction moratorium, unlike the CARES Act eviction moratorium, does not care if you live in a property that participates in a federal assistance program or is subject to a federally backed mortgage loan. As long as it’s not temporary housing like a hotel or motel, it counts.
What jurisdictions does this eviction moratorium apply to?
It applies to any U.S. state or U.S. territory “in which there are documented cases of COVID-19 that provides a level of public-health protections below the requirements listed in this Order.” So basically this applies to every U.S. state and territory except for American Samoa, which has no reported cases of COVID-19.
Now, if where you live there is an even greater eviction moratorium or something similar or some other housing protection in place, like in Washington D.C. you can’t evict anybody right now, even if they make $500,000 a year, then in these cases the more tenant-friendly state rules would still apply.
When does this moratorium end?
It ends on December 31, so if you qualify for this moratorium, and you submit the declaration to your landlord that I’m going to go over in a bit, you can’t be evicted on or before December 31.
What happens after December 31, do you still owe all that back rent if you couldn’t pay it during the extent of this moratorium?
Yes. There is no rent forgiveness aspect to this moratorium. The moratorium makes this very clear when it says, “This Order is a temporary eviction moratorium to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This Order does not relieve any individual of any obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligation that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract. Nothing in this Order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis, under the terms of any applicable contract.”
The moratorium also says, “You are still required to pay rent and follow all the other terms of your lease and rules of the place where you live. You may also still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment.”
So what does that mean? It means that you’re still obligated to make your rent payment, but through December 31 your landlord can’t kick you out if you don’t. So what happens in the new year? Without further action, whether extending the moratorium or providing you rental relief or something like this, we might see a lot of evictions at the beginning of the new year, keep in mind of course that state law could kick in and give you some extra time, depending on the rules of your state.
We know that Democrats will heavily criticize this move by the Trump administration for precisely this reason, that it does not provide any relief and presents a significant cliff at the end of the year that many may fall over in 2021, they will say, “This is bogus, it’s only a half-measure, what we need is not only an eviction moratorium but also actual money to help landlords and tenants.
Now, even until 2021, even right now and up until December 31 and into 2021, you can still be evicted for reasons other than not making rent, for example if you break some other rule in the lease. Kind of makes sense, I hope landlords don’t find some way to take advantage of people here, but look, the thought process is this. You are struggling financially due to government shutdowns imposed in response to the coronavirus crisis.
As a result, making rent right now might be tough if not impossible. This order is intended to protect that situation through the end of the year.
However, this order is not intended to protect situations where, say, the lease says you can’t damage the property or do illegal drugs in the property or have your friends who aren’t on the lease stay over and you do damage to the property or you do illegal drugs in the property or your boyfriend or girlfriend has been living with you for a month under the table not on the lease, that was your choice and has nothing to do with you not being able to make rent due to the COVID-19 crisis, and so these situations are not protected.
Nor does this eviction moratorium provide any relief to landlords. I’m a landlord, I own units here in Southern California, I’m not some mega-billionaire, I have reserves, of course, but if all my tenants stopped paying rent, that would cause a bit of financial strain, and I imagine that for other small-town landlords like me it could cause them to go into foreclosure, there’s nothing in this moratorium that helps the landlords in this situation continue to make their payment through the end of the year with potentially no rent coming in from those eligible for this moratorium and who have taken the necessary steps to take advantage of this moratorium.
How to Take Advantage of the Eviction Moratorium to Prevent Yourself From Being Evicted or Removed From Where You Live Through December 31?
In order to take advantage of this, you and every adult listed on your lease must sign and submit a declaration to your landlord or whoever has the right to evict you, you must submit a signed declaration to them, and within the order itself there is a sample declaration you can use for this purpose, in the actual moratorium itself the language of the declaration is split up between three or four pages, so what I did for you is I created a Google Doc that you can print, fill out, sign, date, and give to your landlord to satisfy the requirements of this declaration.
Now, the C.D.C. may be releasing its own similar declaration form on its website this week, it doesn’t seem to really matter if you use this Google Doc or the official C.D.C. form, but I just created this Google Doc to be helpful, and it’s not to be taken as legal advice, I literally just took the language from the sample declaration in the eviction moratorium, added a heading with to landlord, my name is, I leased the property at such-and-such address.
If you have any concerns about the eviction moratorium and how it relates to your specific situation, please reach out to maybe a free tenants’ rights group in your area or something like that, if you’re having a fight right now with your landlord because your boyfriend or girlfriend has been living with you and they’re not on the lease, and the landlord is threatening to evict you for that reason, there might be additional complications here beyond just, “Hey, I can’t afford rent because I lost my job due to shutdowns due to COVID-19,” again, I’m not a lawyer, and even if I was, I’m not your lawyer.
I have done the best I can to go over this eviction moratorium for you, I hope it was helpful.